CBT… Is It Right For Me?

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (“CBT”) is a goal-oriented, systematic style of psychotherapy that is appropriate for some clients who want to address specific problems, symptoms, and diagnoses (patterns of symptoms).  The focus of the treatment is on the present, in contrast to other forms of psychotherapy that focus more on the client’s past – particularly one’s early childhood. CBT is effective because of its collaborative nature. An important part of the treatment process involves the client completing assigned tasks between sessions, such as written homework assignments, charting mood and behavioral “experiments”. CBT is evidenced based and has been  extensively researched.  It has been shown  to be one of the more clinically effective forms of treatment for many mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, panic, substance abuse, and eating disorders.

 CBT involves talking about oneself and exploring personal thoughts and feelings. In addition, the therapist may introduce certain tools to help the client observe and evaluate his/her thought processes, behaviors, and feelings. Frequently, the client is asked to complete tasks between sessions. For example, the client may be asked to count how many times they engage in certain behaviors, or to track their moods, or or to keep a journal of thoughts and events over the week.

It can be used in “pure form”, or in conjunction with other counseling approaches. Its basic premise recognizes that the ways we think and behave are often maladaptive in characteristic ways, and have a direct effect on our emotional state.  When we learn how to observe ourselves more objectively, and to adapt healthier patterns of thinking and behaving, we make substantial improvements to our mood, functioning, and overall outlook.

I use CBT with clients in conjunction with other counseling approaches.  I encourage my clients to approach treatment with a sense of curiosity about themselves, and a willingness to challenge themselves and confront issues head on. Together we collaborate and facilitate a process of healing aimed at reducing symptoms and behaviors which have blocked their ability to move forward by exploring different ways of thinking and being in the world.

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Wellness Is Where It’s At!

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There are times in our busy lives where we all need to take time or rather make time for self care. The world can be a pretty stressful place and leave us feeling overwhelmed and overwrought. There are definitely things we all can do to stay healthy and well. Here are a few…

Steps for Wellness

1. Relax and practice letting go of stress and negative thoughts.  

2. Sleep. Getting at least 7-8  hours of undisturbed sleep allows your body to heal from the days stress. Healthy sleep habits ward against heart disease, defend against cold/flu and some studies indicate a link to weightloss and lowering risk for diabetes .

3. Drink 8-10 glasses a day. Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.

4. Eat lots of fruits and veggies, move toward a plant based diet. Adopt clean eating habits.  

5. If you eat meat, get down to 1 serving per week, and when you do eat meat do so with a huge salad or other dark leafy vegetables to help process the toxins.

6.  Meditate. Practice deep cleansing breaths for at least 30 seconds – 1 minute.

7. Have fun moving your body!  Exercise, dance, build up a sweat if you’re able!  

8. Do something that makes you smile, laugh and feel happy such as develop your creative side, spend time with friends and/or your pets.

So I’m an INFJ? What does it mean?

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If you’re anything like me, you really get a kick out of figuring out your personality and what makes you tick. While an undergrad I took a course in personality psychology taught by a grad student. For reasons of self discovery but mostly out of curiosity, I was drawn to this course.  I could often be found at a cafe, on steps in front of the campus or pretty much anywhere that allow me the opportunity to “people watch”. I really enjoyed observing the vast nuances of human behavior. I remember one day we were told that we could volunteer to take a battery of personality test, one of which was the MBTI or Myers Briggs Personality Type. I was really excited because I’d finally have the answers to my personality, up until then I had to rely on astrological explanations. But now I had the opportunity for a real bonafied scientifically researched approach to understanding myself. As you could imagine, I was a bit surprised at the results. I’ve since taking the test several times and what I’ve realized is that there are parts of my personality that remain constant and other parts, particularly as it relates to introversion and extroversion that have fluctuated a bit. I’ve also found that at times I am more perceiving and other times when I’ve taking the test more judging.

When it was all said and done, I think what I’m most excited about is the journey in self discovery rather than the journey to.  After all this time, I continue to seek to understand myself and my place in the world. I continue to see myself as an evolving work in progress. I will say this about being an INFJ or Introversion/Intuition/Feeling/Judging…. life certainly has been interesting.

Peace & Blessings,

Loretta

Good Self Esteem… What Does It Really Mean?

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.  ~Henry S. Haskins, Meditations in Wall Street, 1940,

Self Esteem really comes down to how you feel about yourself…. your personal evaluation of your own worthiness. Self Esteem has to do with your sense of self, your beliefs about yourself and how you feel or emotionally connect to yourself. Sounds pretty simple right? Well then what constitutes low self esteem? And why do so many people struggle with it? So much stigma, hurt and negativity surrounds many of us that it’s a wonder anyone feels good about themselves.

I had  a conversation with an 18 y.o young woman who is very close to me today, I told her “You need to learn to love yourself.” Her reply was “I don’t know how”. At one time I struggled with self love and acceptance until I realized that I really did not have a good enough reason to feel bad about myself. After some reflection on my own journey to self acceptance and self love, I told her.

1. Learning to love yourself is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes lots of practice.

2. Learning self love means being willing to begin the task of identifying things about you that you like. Do self inventory…. make a list. As they say, “everyone is good at something…”

3.Rather than beating yourself up and wallowing in self pity, choose to focus on the positive and fiercely accept those things that you may not love so much.

4. Recognize that self acceptance does not equate to settling or complacency. You can still work to improve those things that are within your power to change, e.g., more education, weight loss, your inner circle, taking control of your health, etc.

5. Good self esteem means that you accept that you aren’t perfect, and when it’s all said and done… you are absolutely okay with this knowledge.

6. Embrace your uniqueness, realizing that there is nobody in the world just like you.

7. Spend some personal time getting to know you.

8. Develop a filter that allows you shut out negative interference from others.

9. Affirm your own mantra…. If you say “I’m okay and I’m good enough”, you may just believe it.

10. Choose to refuse F.E.A.R. – false evidence appearing as real.

12. Choose to be around like minded people that affirm & love you just as much as you love you.

13. Know that you have been granted the opportunity to reach for the stars….

14. Know that this world is full of examples of people just like you, who refused to be boxed in by others. They stared their obstacles in the eye and pushed right through them.

15. Look at yourself in the mirror…. smile or make a silly face.

16. Give yourself a break and a much needed hug.

17. Set boundaries with others and refuse to accept behavior that is disrespectful and unloving

It gets better….

Peace,

Loretta.

Compassionate Yet Fatigued

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It is common and normal that those of us in the helping professions experience burn out. As an intern while still in grad I was told that it happens frequently so expect it to happen. Burn out has become a certain reality for me and many that I’ve talked due to the challenging and often stressful work that we do, particularly for those of us working in community based behavioral agencies.
However, there is something else that we must contend with, a phenomena called “compassion fatigue” referring to what can happen when helpers over a period of time begin to experience symptoms as result of repeated exposure to client traumatic stories/experiences. Clinicians and other helpers may begin to experience vicarious trauma like symptoms, i.e., sleep disturbance, anxiety, hyper vigilance, paranoia. Often the feeling of being overwhelmed by the work and as if the help provided is not enough. The response is to emotionally detach and numb oneself from feeling. This increases risk of increased eating, drinking and in cases drug abuse to self soothe.
What is one to do?
1-Talking about it helps, with therapist or EAP counselor
2-Find healthy ways to relax, i.e. meditation, guided imagery, quiet time
3-Exercise to release endorphins to improve mood, yoga, cardio, kick boxing, etc.
4-Take a vacation, if possible, if not a staycation.
5-New job setting, maybe not so possible
6-Reconnect with spirituality however you define it

5 Steps to Happiness

The last two posts, are about finding your happiness and a happiness quiz. I wanted to add this information as I found it really interesting and because the program is local. According to Randy Taran of Project Happiness based on Positive Psychology philosphy based in Palo Alto, CA; here are

5 Steps to Happiness:

1. Choose something you want to focus on. It could be getting more exercise, connecting with nature, taking a course you’ve been interested in or making regular time to connect with someone you love. By the way, that someone could be you. What are you longing for? Build it into your calendar. It matters more than you think. Try choosing just one thing. As the saying goes, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” What is your one thing?

2. Mind your mindset. When embarking on your one thing, cut yourself some slack. You don’t have to qualify as an expert in the first week. Dr. Carole Dweck of Stanford University talks about growth and fixed mindsets. A fixed mindset thinks all or nothing: You are either good at playing guitar, learning a new language, new sport, etc., or you are not. A growth mindset knows that if you practice anything, even though you’ll deal with some obstacles along the way, your skills will grow. Anything can be learned.

3. Lighten up. Check your closet for clothes, jackets or accessories you haven’t worn for years. Cart them to a Goodwill or a nonprofit that helps others get a new start. Then look for a special piece of clothing that you feel great in. It doesn’t have to be an expensive piece — consignment stores are often where designers shop for inspiration. Consider a color that makes you feel alive. Let whatever you choose bring a smile to your face every time you put it on.

4. Grow your gratitudeThe truth is you were born happy, and you can reawaken that happiness inside. Gratitude is a powerful pathway. Keep a gratitude journal beside your bed and jot down three things that you are grateful for at least once a week. In one study, by Emmons and McCullough, people practicing gratitude felt 25 percent happier than those who weren’t; they also felt more optimistic about the future. Gratitude is a game changer.

5. Think of how you want to be in the world. An interesting exercise is to imagine yourself at the end of your days. What qualities would you like to be remembered for? Caring, creativity, steadfastness, warm-heartedness, friendship, humor … what is it for you? Start paying special attention to expressing those qualities now. You can evolve into what you aspire to be.

Peace & Blessings,

Loretta

Test Your Happiness…..

Test your happiness
Happy people

Are you as happy as these people?

Psychologists say it is possible to measure your happiness.

This test designed by psychologist Professor Ed Diener from the University of Illinois, takes just a minute to complete.

To find out how happy you are just look at the five statements below and decide whether you agree or disagree using a 1-7 scale.

Please be open and honest in your responding – remember your answers are totally private.

Once you have answered all five questions press submit and we will calculate your score. You will then be able to read Professor Diener’s analysis.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Slightly disagree
  4. Neither agree nor disagree
  5. Slightly agree
  6. Agree
  7. Strongly agree
In most ways my life is ideal.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
The conditions of my life are excellent.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I am satisfied with my life.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

What makes you makes you happy

To understand life satisfaction scores, it is helpful to understand some of the components that go into most people’s experience of happiness.

One of the most important influences on happiness is social relationships.

Men laughing

Social relationships greatly influence your happiness levels

People who score high on life satisfaction tend to have close and supportive family and friends, whereas those who do not have close friends and family are more likely to be dissatisfied.

Of course the loss of a close friend or family member can cause dissatisfaction with life, and it may take quite a time to bounce back from the loss.

Another factor that influences the life satisfaction of most people is work or school, or performance in an important role such as homemaker or grandparent.

When the person enjoys his or her work, whether it is paid or unpaid work, and feels that it is meaningful and important, this contributes to life satisfaction.

When work is going poorly because of bad circumstances or a poor fit with the person’s strengths, this can lower life satisfaction.

When a person has important goals, and is failing to make adequate progress toward them, this too can lead to life dissatisfaction.

A third factor that influences the life satisfaction of most people is personal – satisfaction with the self, religious or spiritual life, learning and growth, and leisure.

Other sources of happiness

For many people these are sources of satisfaction. However, when these sources of personal worth are frustrated, they can be powerful sources of dissatisfaction.

Of course there are additional sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction – some that are common to most people such as health, and others that are unique to each individual.

Most people know the factors that lead to their satisfaction or dissatisfaction, although a person’s temperament – a general tendency to be happy or unhappy – can colour their responses.

There is no one key to life satisfaction, but rather a recipe that includes a number of ingredients.

With time and persistent work, people’s life satisfaction usually goes up.

People who have had a loss recover over time. People who have a dissatisfying relationship or work often make changes over time that will increase their satisfaction.

One key ingredient to happiness is social relationships, and another key ingredient is to have important goals that derive from one’s values, and to make progress toward those goals.

For many people it is important to feel a connection to something larger than oneself.

When a person tends to be chronically dissatisfied, they should look within themselves and ask whether they need to develop more positive attitudes to life and the world.

Copyright by Professor Ed Diener, University of Illinois
Use is free of charge and granted by permission.

Find Your Happy

I recently started reading a book called The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want  by Sonja Lyubomirsky. I have to admit that I enjoy reading these kinds of books for their practical knowledge and I find them useful recommendations for my clients. It got me thinking about what it means to be happy… Happiness seems to be a phenomena not easily defined and subjectively experienced. I find that a majority of people on the earth really want to be happy and to experience a sense of well being irrespective of their current circumstance. 

For many, at least in this country, happiness seems to be an illusive quality not easily achieved. Often out necessity, we find ourselves doing things we really do not enjoy.  The more we do it, the less we enjoy until we begin to feel disheartened and a sense of hopelessness that our situation will change. Despite the current economic recession in this country, according to a recent poll conducted by the UN Human Development Index 2011 which “measures happiness in different countries based on factors such as income, education, health, life expectancy, economy, gender equality and sustainability.” The United States ranked 4th happiest country in the world, Norway ranked 1st. If this be true, that out of 187 countries that were polled, the US ranked 4th, why do so many people in this country appear to be so unhappy? Particular as we witness with Occupy Wall Street movement, which that claims that 99% of the population suffers while 1% of the rich continue to financially gain through the exploitation of the 99%, can now be seen in every state of the Union and across party lines. How does one experience happiness as defined by the UN? Maybe the UN was wrong?

Walk into any bookstore on any given day and you will find stacks of books on Positive Psychology and the ideal of “The Pursuit of Happiness”. As positive psychology states that it is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The position taking is that “There is an alternative to thinking about people and the world as needing to be fixed. You can see possibilities an opportunities for growth, evolution, rebirth wellness, strength…”http://www.positivepsychology.net. There has been lots of research in support of the happiness gene, born happy. According to Martin Seligman, considered the father of Positive Psychology, http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org, ” we can experience three kinds of happiness: 1) pleasure and gratification, 2) embodiment of strengths and virtues and 3) meaning and purpose. Each kind of happiness is linked to positive emotion but from his quote, you can see that in his mind there is a progression from the first type of happiness of pleasure/gratification to strengths/virtues and finally meaning/purpose.”

Then there are those whose research against the idea of happiness summing it up as a “Pollyanna gloss”.According to evolutionary psychologist, Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa, “What can evolutionary psychology tell us about what we as a society can do so as not to repeat the Swedish mistake and make our citizens happy?  The best thing to do is to kill all the feminists and hippies and liberals.  Destroy political correctness completely once and for all.  Teach boys and girls that they are different, not the same, and that it’s okay (nay, wonderful) to be different.  One is not right and the other is not wrong.  Stop telling girls that they are inferior versions of boys, as feminists have done for the last half century, or, as has more recently been the case, stop telling boys that they are inferior versions of girls. Live as you feel like, not as you think you should live like.” Who is right? Who can really say? Does it all depends on your view of the world and your place in it? Is is genetics? Is it about intentions?

As a friend of mine states, “Hi my name is #### and I am an addict.. I am addicting to being happy and living life to the fullest… although it isn’t always easy and things don’t always go the way you want them… I gotta be patient..everyday may not be a good one but there is good in every day!!” What do you think? How can you find your happy?

Happy Halloween

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s the one time of year besides birthdays where you can be the focus of attention. If you’re a child it’s all about having the best costume and how much candy you can ‘trick or treat‘. No presents to buy, no special food to cook, no family obligations, no specific place you have to be, etc. Adults love this holiday as much as children, sometimes I think more so because it allows us to reconnect with our inner child and the freedom found in fantasy of being whomever or whatever you want. A time to embrace creativity and fun. To reconnect with the free spirit within ourselves that goes dormant for most of us the other 364 days of the year.

Whether or not you celebrate Halloween, embrace your inner child and have fun!

Peace & Blessings,

Loretta

I Am Who I am

Has anyone ever said to you? You should try to be more like “so and so”? You would be so pretty if you lost some weight. I think this hairstyle (fill in the blank) would look so good on you. Why do you dress like that? Walk like this… No point in you trying out for that, you won’t get chosen.
As a teenager I struggled with feeling okay with myself. I felt confident about some things, I knew I smart, that I was talented & creative but issue had to do with my body image. I was short and a bit thicker than my school peers. Although I may have only been15 to 20 pounds overweight, the messages that got were that I wasn’t good enough despite excelling academically. It took a few years but I learned self acceptance by rebelling against others opinion of me.
A few things I learned along the way

1-You matter!

2- Find something that you like about yourself.

3-It’s okay to be an individual, don’t give in to pressure to conform to the crowd.

4-Learn to hear your own voice.

5-Be your truth or be true to yourself.

6-Embrace your flaws as well as your perfections.

7-Celebrate your successes.

8-Don’t sweat the small stuff or small minded people.

9-You have an opinion… Don’t be afraid to share it

Peace & blessings
Loretta